Palace Museum - Forbidden City
I’ve returned to China for work after a six-year absence. The China I first lived with has changed a great a deal. The standard comment from me is “Beijing is much better organised, but not as much fun.” Since returning I am making an effort to revisit some of the places I’ve seen before, especially since it has been more than fifteen years since in some cases. The Forbidden City is one of those places. Now called the Palace Museum, it is definitely much better organised, and cleaner, and better decorated, and more accessible. This photo diary documents my trip through the Palace Museum. It’s a way for me to expand my understanding of China and offer some commentary. Also, let’s hope it encourages you to visit this place, it’s definitely worth it.
At the bottom of this post, you can find a pdf version of this diary. Feel free to download it, and tell everyone where you got it - Dplusworldwide.com
For this adventure I brought my Olympus OM Pen 9 and my phone, a Huawei Nova 3. I also had my old school Olympus Pen 3, but I have yet to process the film. So maybe in another iteration of my photo diaries. I entered through the side door, which is normally not an option, but I got lucky on this April day. The walk there was full of all manners of interesting photos and the day was cool and bright. But since I was meeting a friend I couldn’t stop.
The Palace Museum is known most for its wide open spaces. The grand effect of a wide square held in place by a large red and gold temple makes an appearance in almost every China travel brochure. However, like China, the Forbidden City has many small spaces where the real business happens. Now more than ever, this place is an analogy for China in general, the image given to the outside world is giant and impressive, but the real business happens out of sight in intimate spaces that only a few can occupy.
I suppose it isn't a proper ancient, historical site if it doesn't have stray cats living there.
Dig this iron castle. Last I visited the Forbidden City none of this was available and even though I ‘found’ this with a hundred other people, it still felt like a discovery for me.
Once upon a time I worked at a museum. Now whenever I see the collection markings (the stickers on the inside of this pot) I can’t help recalling that time.
I have no idea what is going on here, and the photo isn’t great, but it needed taking.
The potential for a long commentary on each of these images exist, but I will only comment on the one above. This is one of things I have come to dislike about China. Even since arriving in 2003, China has been claiming parts of the world as its own, stating that these were always a part of China. The plaque below is telling in that even in the Qianlong era (1735 – 1796) China was after the resources of other places. Perhaps even more illustrative given China’s recent efforts to subordinate the Xinjiang region and its native peoples.
Well, the photographs don’t show it, but this was an all day affair for me. I walked along the wall, I revisited parts and made loops, had a rather comical experience trying to decode how the ticket app wanted me to display my name, poked through many of the galleries and also just sat contemplating life, the universe, and everything in the gardens. The only thing the Palace Museum is missing is brew pub, so I hopped a city bike and made my way to the nearest for a pint of Workers Pale Ale.
Hope you enjoyed this trip!
Devin Allen, artist, teacher, musician writes about art and art education stuff.